While it’s certainly not over yet, we’ve reached the home stretch of the recruitment process, as the Badgers usually race deep into Turn 3 (pardon the race analogy), with their official visits out of the way they’re hoping to make it jutting through the middle of the turn so they can fire from Turn 4 into the fall and towards the finish line.
With the three major official visit weekends to Wisconsin concluded, let’s take a look at where the class currently stands:
Current Commitments (10)
RB: Jaquez Keyes (6-ft-1, 207lbs, Ironton (HS), Ohio), Nate White (6ft-0, 175lbs, Milwaukee King HS)
WR: Collin Dixon (6ft 2, 205lbs, Tallmadge (HS), Ohio), Trech Kekahuna (5ft 11, 180lbs, Honolulu, St. Louis HS)
OIL: IOL James Durand (6ft 4, 280lbs, Chandler, Ari., Basha HS)
DL: Roderick Pierce (6ft 3, 290lbs, Chicago, Brother Rice HS)
EDGE: Jordan Mayer (6ft 4, 235lbs, Clairton, Pa., Thomas Jefferson HS)
LB: Tyler Jansey (6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Batavia (HS), Illinois)
CB: AJ Tisdell (5-foot-11, 175 pounds, College Station (HS), Texas)
S: Justin Taylor (6ft 1, 185lbs, La Grange Park, Illinois, Nazareth Academy)
what the class needs
More big guys
Expect this class, like any class, to be strong in the ditches to ensure crucial depth on both sides of the ball. The further away the program is from COVID eligibility season, the more large bodies need to be added.
Offensively, Nashville OT Joe Crocker is the big target that’s still on the board. At 6ft 6 and 320 pounds, Crocker has the height and length the Badgers and new offensive line coach Bob Bostad covet. He was the Badgers’ first official visiting weekend in June and is the top offensive lineman on the board. I would expect another offensive lineman as well, but Crocker is the obvious one.
Defensively, two stand out. Chicago’s Jamel Howard of Marist HS is the nose tackle Wisconsin needs. Howard, at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, is conveniently good friends with current Chicagoland signings Justin Taylor and Roderick Pierce. Hopefully those relationships will pay off.
The other big fish is still Ashton Sanders, who moved to Wisconsin and Cal. Sanders, a Los Angeles native, would be a huge asset for the Badgers but is much more of a home run swing than Howard at this point. He was supposed to make his decision last Sunday but a family issue surfaced and he pushed it back.
Quit the Chicagoland Cleanup (And Other Defenders)
Kahlil Tate, a tall and athletic defenseman from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy, would be the last Illinois-area gem Wisconsin is keen to snag. Tate and his good friend Justin Taylor would be the safety couple in this class and would be a few more toys for Hank Poteat and Jim Leonhard to play with in the secondary school.
Speaking of toys in the secondary school, Braeden Marshall of Lake Mary, Fla., would be the icing on the cake for a group looking to replace a senior group after 2022. Jace Arnold, a Georgia prospect, was also on campus this past weekend and is reportedly a favorite for Wisconsin. (Editor’s Note: After Owen made this post, Badger247’s Evan Flood announced that Arnold would accept Wednesday afternoon.)
Curtis is the top recruit Wisconsin targeted throughout this 2023 process. He is one of the top 100 recruits and the sixth-best linebacker in the country.
Curtis was persuaded into the idea of being THE difference maker on this Wisconsin defense by coach Bobby April, who would take his position as coach at Outside Linebacker. Rumored to be in Wisconsin, USC and Ohio State, there’s still hope he could end up in Madison.
This would be a huge win for Wisconsin and coach April, who has reportedly been to Louisiana at least seven times to visit Curtis and his family.
Quarterback, tight end, yada yada yada
While it’s clear there will be no Graham Mertz-level goal for the Badgers in this class after Ankeny, Iowa’s JJ Kohl stayed in Iowa State, South Dakota’s Lincoln Kleinholz seems the apple of Paul Chryst’s and Bobby Engram’s eyes be at this stage. He should be better as there are no other real offers on the position.
Zach Ortwerth, a tight end from the St. Louis area, appears to be the top target for the Badgers right now since he was the only tight end to get an official visit to Madison this summer. While Ortwerth isn’t a “prime” target from a recruiting star perspective, he’s 6ft 6 and has the height and length the Badgers often seek at the position.
All in all, I don’t expect this course to be a boon to Wisconsin as they are still feeling some of the impact of the reorganization and restructuring of their recruiting department over a year ago on this course. However, I expect the classes to come (2024, 2025) will be firing on all cylinders and making another run at the highest recruiting rank in school history as they saw in 2021 (No. 16 in the country).
A last model of the class (19):
QB: Lincoln Kleinholz
RB: Jaquez Keyes, Nate White
WR: Collin Dixon, Trech Kekahuna
TE: Zach Ortwerth
OL: Joe Crocker, James Durand, *3. OIL
DL: Roderick Pierce, Jamel Howard, Ashton Sanders
EDGE: Tackett Curtis, Jordan Mayer
LB: Tyler Jansey
CB: AJ Tisdell, Braelen Marshall
S: Kahlil Tate, Justin Taylor